Oil companies started drilling around Ecuador’s Lago Agrio in 1972.
Texaco had found oil here a few years before, in the middle of the
Amazon, and for decades the oil industry harvested the oil gushing from
the ground. Chevron took over when it bought Texaco, and Ecuador’s state
oil company took over from Chevron. All the while, the drilling
operations were pouring pollution in the area’s air and water—so much pollution
that last year an Ecuadorian judge ordered Chevron
to pay a total $18 billion to a group of 30,000 indigenous people,
represented by a coalition of lawyers from Ecuador and North America.
While lawyers fight in international courts for oil companies to pay
up, the people in the Lago Agria area are living in one of the most
polluted pieces of land on the planet. Oil is still being extracted from
the area; some locals work for the industry. But a new project is
ensuring that these communities will have access to clean water, despite
the pollution that surrounds them.